Following the release of the full legislative text of the $1.2 trillion “Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act” or IIJA in the Senate on August 1 – a bill clocking in at 2,702 pages – a large number of transportation industry organizations sent a letter to Congress calling for its passage.
[Above photo by the Architect of the Capitol]
That August 3 letter – spearheaded by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – includes support from 82 national organizations and labor unions. The letter urges all senators to support the legislation through procedural votes and final passage in the coming days.
“The investments made in the Senate package would facilitate long overdue repairs and improvements to our roads, bridges, rail, and public transportation systems, as well as investing in airports, ports, broadband, and water systems,” the letter noted. “The investments would create new jobs through project construction in the short term, and provide improved safety, mobility, and quality of life for decades to come.”
The IIJA provides an estimated $550 billion in new spending over five years on top of current Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act funding levels. It does so by incorporating the $303.5 billion highway bill (Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021) passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in May along with the safety and rail bill (Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021) passed 25 to 3 by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in June.
The IIJA also directly reauthorizes federal transit programs based on the Senate Banking Committee input, as that committee did not pass a transit reauthorization bill prior to the unveiling of the IIJA on July 28.
AASHTO noted that this bill is the result of an “unconventional process” whereby a “bipartisan bloc” of 21 Senators – comprised of 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats – took leadership of this package regardless of their committee assignments.
Because of their weeks-long negotiation, the IIJA provides $113.3 billion in advance general fund appropriations for various forms of infrastructure – including transportation – “above and beyond” authorization and funding from trust funds.
While traditional general fund authorization of program funding is subject to annual appropriations action and cannot be seen as “guaranteed” money, IIJA advance appropriations will provide guaranteed funding between fiscal year 2022 and 2026 for certain programs outside of the Highway Trust Fund.
The Senate should wrap up consideration of amendments to the IIJA soon, followed by a cloture vote to end debate on the bill ahead of scheduling a final vote.
AASHTO’s analysis also highlighted several key funding and policy highlights of the IIJA, including:
- States get 90 percent of total HTF Highway Account funds via formula programs apportioned to states, with the addition of two new programs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and bolstering infrastructure resiliency.
- The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program or STBGP sub-allocation is unchanged at 55 percent.
- The bill allows use of up to 10 percent of Highway Safety Improvement Program funds for non-infrastructure activities.
- The bill supports continued development of alternative user fees at the state level through the Strategic Innovation for Revenue Collection program, currently known as Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives The IIJA also calls for the creation of a national motor vehicle per-mile pilot program.
- It creates a new $27.5 billion formula-based Federal Highway Administration bridge program via advance general fund appropriations.
- It also creates a new $5 billion electric vehicle charging infrastructure formula program.
- The bill substantially increases passenger rail funding by providing $66 billion in advance general fund appropriations including for Amtrak, the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements or CRISI program, and rail crossing elimination.
- It provides $69.9 billion from the Mass Transit Account of the HTF for transit formula programs – a 31.6 percent increase from FAST Act levels between FY 2021 and FY 2022 – and another $21.3 billion in advance general fund appropriations for Capital Investment Grants and for certain formula programs.
- The bill transfers $118 billion from the general fund to the HTF: $90 billion to Highway Account and $28 billion to Mass Transit Account.